It’s usually the other way around; North Korean state media reprinting The Onion as fact, or Chinese media falling for The New Yorker’s satire column. This time, however, the Western Media Bullshit Detector © must have been broken, because a plethora of reasonably respectable sources incorrectly reported that Kim Jong Un had his uncle executed by (and I’m paraphrasing here) stripping him naked and feeding him to more than 100 starving dogs.
Last month, Kim Jong Un ordered the execution of his “despicable human scum” uncle, Jang Song-thaek. The deed was, somewhat unexpectedly, carried out in private, presumably with a gun and all of the ceremony deemed necessary for someone accused of only “half-heartedly clapping” during official gatherings. Satirical Weibo user Pyongyang Choi Seongho soon posted a gritty and intentionally-over-the-top take on the situation, as The Guardian reports:
[In Choi’s satire] Jang and five of his aides were stripped naked, thrown into a giant cage, and “entirely devoured” by 120 Manchurian hunting dogs that had been starved for three days. Kim conducted the hour-long spectacle himself before an audience of 300 North Korean officials, it added.
Choi’s post coincided with massive fact-checking laziness in the international press, as these lovely headlines can attest:
- The New York Daily News: Release the hounds! Kim Jong Un executed uncle by feeding him to pack of starving dogs
- The Independent: Kim Jong-un’s executed uncle Jang Song Thaek ‘stripped naked, fed to 120 dogs as officials watched’
- NBC World News: Kim Jong Un’s executed uncle was eaten alive by 120 hungry dogs: report
- The Mirror: Kim Jong-Un’s uncle stripped naked and fed to 120 starving dogs as tyrant watched
If you can’t trust The Mirror, who can you trust? The “news” was also reported by the International Business Times, the Daily Mail, and others. Not to name any names, but some of these publications are more respectable than others, and NBC/The Independent should likely know better.
The Guardian lovingly restored reason and put an end to the rumor mills in an article yesterday, to remind us that, yes, North Korea is a bizarre and sensationalist place, but you still have to check your facts.